Tablet Local

Sons’ long wait for justice in mother’s 1985 death ends as stepfather gets 40 years

Three brothers who were left behind almost 30 years ago when their mother was killed never stopped hoping for justice.

On Friday, a judge’s gavel ended their wait. Their stepfather, Paul Christopher Ervin, 59, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in the death of their mother, Linda Ervin.

Ervin will have to serve a third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, prosecutors said.

During the trial this week, prosecutors Sean Colston and Rhett Parham presented evidence that Paul Ervin killed his wife on June 19, 1985, and then took her three sons to a festival celebrating Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the day slaves in Texas received word that they had been freed. When the boys and Ervin returned home, they found the house in disarray as if it had been burglarized. And Linda Ervin was lying on her bed, fatally strangled.

Ervin was immediately a suspect, but a grand jury declined to indict him then.

In August 2013, he was arrested after police matched his DNA to DNA found under Linda Ervin’s fingernails.

Two of Linda Ervin’s sons, Dewayne Jones and Gus Hayes, testified this week that about four months before his mother was fatally strangled, Paul Ervin viciously attacked her. Police and hospital records of the attack were presented as evidence.

Soon after reporting the assault, Linda Ervin fled with her children to Liberty, a town about 43 miles northeast of Houston, where they had family. But she came back to Fort Worth after staying only a few days, according to the sons’ testimony.

Just before their return, Linda Ervin gathered up her sons and tearfully told them to “stay together” if anything happened to her. Shortly thereafter, on Father’s Day 1985, Linda Ervin told an aunt “she was not long for this world” and asked that her aunt’s ex-husband preach at her funeral if something happened to her. She also said she wanted to be buried in a pink gown.

Three days later, Linda Ervin was dead.

“I’ve wanted to bring my mother’s killer to justice ever since I was discharged from the military,” Jones testified. “But I’m not mad at him anymore. It took me a lifetime, but I’ve learned how to forgive him.”

During the punishment phase of the trial on Friday, jurors heard from Paul Ervin’s second wife, who testified that he regularly abused her. After one beating, she testified, she confronted Paul Ervin about Linda Ervin’s slaying.

“I said, ‘You killed Linda, didn’t you?’ ” the woman recalled. “He said [she] got what she deserved, just like you are going to get.”